The UK-based Sunday Times has a potential bombshell on their site; they claim Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who started the whole "vaccines cause autism" garbage, faked his data to make that claim.
About 10 years ago, Wakefield published a study dealing with children who were autistic, developing symptoms shortly after getting their shots, and linked this with irritated intestinal tracts. This study came under a lot of fire, and eventually most of the authors retracted the conclusion that autism was associated with "environmental factors", that is, vaccinations. By then, though, it was too late, and the modern antivaccination movement was born.
The Sunday Times investigated Wakefield’s original research, and alleges that the symptoms Wakefield reports in his research do not match hospital records of the 12 children studied at the time. In only one case were there symptoms that arose after the injection; in many of the other cases symptoms started before the children had been vaccinated (in fact, there have been allegations for some time that neurological issues occurred in the children before they had actually been vaccinated, casting doubt on Wakefield’s work). Also, hospital pathologists reported that the bowels of many of the children were normal, but Wakefield reported them as having inflammatory disease in his journal paper.
If these allegations are true, then it means that Wakefield out-and-out lied in his original work. He has denied this, according to the Sunday Times, but won’t make further comments.
This may cause a firestorm in the antivax community, but there are two things I will guarantee: the first is that in the end antivaxxers will stick to their beliefs that vaccines cause health problems like autism, because this is not and never has been, for them, about the facts and evidence. It’s a belief system, and like most other belief systems, it is impenetrable to evidence. If you have any doubts, I suggest you read the comments to the post I made the other day about measles being on the rise in the UK. One commenter on that post is saying all manners of outrageous things, and ignores the evidence that I (and a pediatrician) have left in the comments to him.
Second, and somewhat related, this hardly matters. Many, many independent tests have shown that vaccines are unrelated to the onset of autism. There is vast evidence that vaccines are very safe, and what small risk they pose is massively outweighed by the good they do. Whether Wakefield faked his results or not, he’s still wrong.
The good news is that if this pans out, then perhaps there will be a net loss of people from the antivax side of the argument. The ones who are true believers won’t waver in their faith, of course, but anyone with doubts may finally see reality for the way it is.
I will be very interested indeed on following this story. If anyone finds more information, please send it along.
Tip o’ the syringe to BABloggee Todd Cissell.
Links to this Post
- Brian Deer Discusses Andrew Wakefield in the Sunday Times « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science | February 7, 2009
- Did the founder of the antivax movement fake autism-vaccine link? « Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day | February 7, 2009
- UK Sunday Times: Founder Of Anti-Vaccination Movement Faked His Data « Mercury Rising 鳯女 | February 7, 2009
- de quoi voir rouge « Coffee and Sci(ence) | February 8, 2009
- Paper linking MMR vaccine to autism written with falsified data? :: canspice.org | February 8, 2009
- links for 2009-02-08 « MissM’s Blog | February 8, 2009
- In Other Words | February 8, 2009
- [links] Link salad wakes up to another Monday | jlake.com | February 9, 2009
- There isn’t enough punishment for this | Starts With A Bang! | February 9, 2009
- PoliTrix » Blog Archive » Anti-Vaccination Scientist Accused Of Manipulating Data | February 9, 2009
- Anti-Vaccination Scientist Accused Of Manipulating Data - Blogs - NewsSpotz | February 9, 2009
- One Vaccination Argument Gone « WhiteCoat’s Call Room | February 10, 2009
- Autism Blog - » Blog Archive » Fitzpatrick on the recent Wakefield news | February 11, 2009
- Carnival of Space #91 and a Side Note « Alice’s Astro Info | February 22, 2009
- Like measles, antivaxxers’ prevarications on the rise | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine | February 27, 2009
- Daughter of the Ring of Fire » Blog Archive » The Marked Case: Autism and Violence | March 26, 2009
- Antivaxxers and their trouble with truth | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine | March 28, 2009
- The new McCarthyism « A Fistful of Science | May 12, 2009
- Dateline’s shot at vaccines | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine | September 2, 2009
- Review: Science Under Siege edited by Kendrick Frazier. : AstroGuyz.com | January 21, 2010
- Researcher Who Sparked the Vaccine/Autism Scare "Acted Unethically" - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine | January 28, 2010
- Researcher who promoted link between vaccines and autism acted unethically « Wood Chips | January 29, 2010
- The Volokh Conspiracy » Blog Archive » Anti-Vaccine Scientist Acted “Dishonestly and Irresponsibly” | January 30, 2010
- The Wednesday Post (3/2/10) « Disease of the Week! | February 2, 2010
- Carnival of Space #91 and a Side Note | March 24, 2010